Raila: House job is mine

Friday April 24 2009

Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga. He said ODM had a majority in Parliament and that as the supervisor of ministries, he will also control parliamentary affairs. Photo/ FILE 

By NATION Team

Kenya's Grand Coalition parties on Friday hardened their positions over who between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka should be the Leader of Government Business in Parliament.

President Kibaki chaired a meeting of PNU affiliate parties at State House in Nairobi where they resolved not relent while Mr Odinga declared in Eldoret he would not negotiate over the matter.

President Kibaki has written to House Speaker Kenneth Marende appointing Mr Musyoka to the position but Mr Odinga has also written staking claim to the job by virtue of his role as coordinator of government ministries.

The controversy has stalled proceedings in Parliament because no agenda can be scheduled without the committee, which is chaired by the Leader of Government Business. The wrangling between the two sides has also led to postponement of Cabinet meetings.

Friday’s State House meeting was attended by Cabinet ministers Kiraitu Murungi, Mutula Kilonzo, Mr Musyoka and Uhuru Kenyatta. Sources said the team briefed President Kibaki on Thursday’s debate in Parliament.

Some of the Cabinet ministers at the meeting were said to have described Mr Odinga’s stake as “a civilian coup” against President Kibaki, a move which they vowed not allow.

They said Mr Marende should not act as an arbitrator between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga and let the two principals to make their own consultations.

They said that they had already written to Mr Marende informing him it was the President’s prerogative to name the Leader of Government Business.

In Eldoret, Mr Odinga said ODM had a majority in Parliament and that as the supervisor of ministries, he will also control parliamentary affairs.

“I am not driven by greed for power, but as a party, we shall not allow somebody with 12 MPs to take charge of government affairs in Parliament,” said Mr Odinga, in apparent reference to Mr Musyoka.

He broke the silence over the impasse between him and Mr Musyoka that has threatened the life of Parliament during the burial of Mzee Isaiah Kimeto Barasa in Uasin Gishu District.

While dismissing any move to negotiate over the position, Mr Odinga gave examples of Uganda, Britain and Germany among other countries in the world where the Prime Minister is the leader of government business.

He said problems rocking the government could only be resolved through genuine dialogue, adding that ODM will remain united until it achieves its goals.

Agriculture minister William Ruto set the mood when he said ODM was ready for snap election due to problems facing the Grand Coalition Government.

He said the National Accord, which resulted in the Grand Coalition Government, was clear that the Prime Minister should also be the Leader of Government Business and that ODM will not be taken for a ride.

Other ODM MPs, including assistant minister Jackson Kiptanui, Musa Sirma (nominated), Prof Margaret Kamar and Peris Simam joined in the fray and accused Mr Musyoka of causing divisions between the PM and President Kibaki.

Mr Barasa, who was buried on Friday, was among five other elders who installed the PM as Kalenjin elder prior to the 2007 General Election.

Elsewhere, Mr Musyoka on Friday downplayed wrangling over the House Business Committee saying President Kibaki and Mr Odinga will resolve the matter amicably.

Speaking at Mochengo Primary School in Nyamache District during the burial of Mr Justice Ondara, who contested on an ODM-K ticket during the 2007 General Election, the VP dismissed those calling for fresh elections saying under the current circumstances, there would be more bloodshed if elections were held.

Meanwhile, the Law Society of Kenya has asked Attorney-General Amos Wako to guide Parliament on the formation of the House Business Committee.

The lawyers, however, were categorical that Mr Wako’s advice to break the stalemate must respect the provisions of the National Accord which, they said, declares that Mr Odinga shares power equally with President Kibaki.

“There can be no better time than this when Mr Wako is supposed to end a standoff,” said LSK Chairman Okongo O’Mogeni.

Reported by Alphonce Shiundu, Benjamin Muindi and Barnabas Bii